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Case Worker Training Programs and Requirements

A case worker is a social worker who assists, advises and advocates for clients facing challenges, such as addiction, abuse, unemployment, disability, poverty, mental or physical illness, discrimination and loss. Case workers help populations such as children, the elderly, the disabled and the poor by coordinating the appropriate social service support needed.

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Training Requirements and Recommendations

Aspiring case workers must, at minimum, complete a baccalaureate degree, usually in the field of social work. Supervisory positions and employment in healthcare facilities generally require a master's degree. Both programs of study require completion of on-the-job training through supervised counseling and internships.

Formal Education

Case worker training begins with a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. Those positions requiring additional training usually require a Master in Social Work (MSW).

Bachelor of Social Work

The BSW curriculum encompasses topics such as social justice, welfare services and policies, at-risk clienteles, diversity issues and ethics. Skills in communication, case management and crisis intervention are emphasized. Additionally, students study social policy and cultural diversity.

Master of Social Work

Graduate programs usually require two additional years of study and incorporate didactic training and internships. Students of MSW programs generally choose to specialize in one of three areas: family, child and school services; substance abuse and mental health; or public health and medical services.

Job Experience

Case worker training at the bachelor's level requires candidates to complete a minimum of 400 hours of supervised clinical experience. MSW candidates must complete 900 hours in an internship or supervised client sessions. Students generally work at a social service agency or under direct supervision of a licensed clinical social work while training to be a case worker.

Licenses and Certifications

After completing case worker training at the undergraduate or graduate levels, candidates must obtain a license to practice. Licensure guidelines vary by state, but candidates generally accumulate a specified amount of practical experience and pass a civil service examination. Separate professional credentials are available through the National Association of Social Workers (NASW). Certifications are available in hospice and palliative care; gerontology; children, youth and family services; school social work; healthcare; and case management.

Workshops and Seminars

Many educational opportunities are available for case workers through schools of social work, healthcare facilities and government agencies. Additionally, numerous programs are offered through the NASW and other professional agencies focused upon a specific area of the practice. Employers also offer regular training opportunities in order to ensure workers are current in work policies and government regulations.

Additional Professional Development

Case workers may join the NASW to obtain career support, continuing education and professional development opportunities. Members must adhere to a code of ethics. Licensed social workers must fulfill varying continuing education requirements as determined by state regulations.

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